By Jenny Han Simon
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, working from home has become a new reality for many young professionals, and it’s likely that remote work and communications will continue even after the pandemic. Some people love working from home and can’t ever see themselves going back to the office every day. For others, however, working from home can feel uncomfortable, boring, and even entirely unfilling. These feelings can hinder productivity and further exacerbate the negatives of working from home; however, to help you discover your own personal preferences and unique ways to make working from home as enjoyable as possible, here are five suggestions to make work feel more productive.
1. Make your daily, weekly, and/or monthly schedule visible and accessible
One of the biggest metal adjustments working from home has created is our perception of time. Work from home may leave you staring at your computer, counting the minutes, and then finishing up your week on Friday, wondering where five days went! At the very least, this distorted perception of time may feel a bit surreal, but it may also leave you feeling a bit lost about what to do next—in an hour, a day, a week, a month, and so on.
While we all have some semblance of a mental calendar in our minds, making such calendars visible and accessible is key to getting the most out of your time. Not only are you more likely to remember what you have to get done in both the short term and the long term, but you will also be more successful when it comes to fitting in other things into your schedule and making any necessary adjustments. Similarly, just as aesthetic note-taking or organized spaces get some peoples’ hearts racing, personalizing your calendar or agenda may create a renewed sense of interest and investment in your time and how to organize it.
2. Write out your goals—big or small
Along the same vein of a distorted sense of time, being too in your head is yet another common frustration of working from home. Without co-workers or changing scenery, as well as a more limited set of stimuli, it’s easy to feel stuck in your head as you work from home. It may feel like the only person to consult with is yourself, and you may be second-guessing and overthinking even the smallest of things—work-related or not. Without that work-family around us to energize you and keep you accountable for our performance and goals, it can be hard to maintain the momentum necessary to work towards them. By writing out your goals, you will be externalizing some of that mental energy whilst reminding yourself of what you are actually working towards. Like your calendar, keep it visible as you work.
3. Solidify your workflow
Workflow describes the sequence of stages a piece of work will pass through, from start to finish. For instance, when you are assigned a new task, where do you start? What comes next? When do you know that it’s done? Take essay writing, for example. Some people can crank out a perfect essay, beginning with the introduction and ending with the conclusion, no revision needed, without a problem; however, most people will have some kind of process as they tackle an essay. That process is a workflow. While having a workflow for some of the actual projects you’re working on will also help you maximize efficiency, having one that clearly lists all of your tasks for the day and the order in which they are to be completed will help your day-to-day productivity. Try to observe and subsequently refine your workflow as you get used to it.
4. Create your ideal working space
There are many reasons why a space can enhance or hinder productivity. Coming from a busy office and now having to work from your bedroom, kitchen, or whatever new home office setup can be jarring. It might be that you simply need more space for your work materials in order to not feel cluttered and caged in. Or maybe what you’re missing from work is the chatter of your colleagues that reminds you that you’re at work. There are a variety of things that made our workplaces feel like the place to do work, so take some time to identify those features and replicate them as best as possible. However, try to take some time to consider the benefits of working from home as well and how you can incorporate those into your workday. Whether it’s comfort, convenience, or something else, think about how you can utilize the benefits of being at home and how you can make your new workspace most similar to your notion of a productive working environment.
5. Prioritize your needs and set aside time for yourself
Working from home, in many ways, does sound like “the dream.” All of the things that make your home home stay with you as you work, and not having a commute, needing to pack lunch, or dealing with whatever annoys you at work, working from home can be a nice change for many. However, the problem comes when the novelty has worn off, and work goes back to work except you can’t leave your house.
While we may have learned to live with and tolerate some of the frustrations this pandemic has brought on, it is still important to take care of yourself and recognize what you need—physically and mentally—to be both happy and productive. You will be most productive if you yourself are happy and healthy, and no amount of planning, organizing, or pushing yourself harder can compete. Whether it’s taking breaks or a day off, or fitting your personal hobbies and routines into your new workday, there’s a way to use working from home to your advantage and remain productive.
Jenny Han Simon currently lives in New York City. She was a Fulbright ETA in Mongolia (2019-2020) and a participant of the Critical Language Scholarship (2018). She graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2019 with a BA in English and Linguistics.
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